Trucking takes hardest hit among transport modes

by Canadian Shipper

Trucking’s impressive growth streak came to an abrupt end in 2001, the latest analysis of the Canadian transportation industry has revealed.

Economic growth fell 3.2% in Canada’s trucking industry in 2001, the largest decline among the eight segments in the nation’s transportation sector, according to a report released this week by Statistics Canada.

However, trucking still accounted for 31% of total output in the transportation sector, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), the highest share among the sector’s eight segments. Trucking’s share of output in transportation remained relatively consistent during the previous four years, ranging from 30.8% to 31.8%.

"The Canadian trucking industry has shown signs of slowing down since 1999. This has been due to a number of factors: increased fuel costs, uncertainty about the economy, the cooling down of the US economy and the events of September 11, 2001," Statistics Canada comments in its Daily Bulletin.

Rail transportation, trucking’s main competitor, accounted for 12% of GDP in the transportation sector in 2001, virtually unchanged since 1998.

In 2001, the roughly 1,900 long distance for-hire trucking companies based in Canada that had annual operating revenues of $1 million or more generated $14.7 billion in revenues, up 6.9% from 2000.

This rate of growth was slightly slower than the 7.3% gain in revenues in 2000, and considerably slower than the 15.9% increase in 1999.

These long distance carriers hauled 288 million metric tonnes of freight in 2001, up 3.4%.

Domestic shipments accounted for 74% of this total tonnage and 54% of revenues. Carriers hauled more than 29 million shipments within Canada, weighing 212.8 million tonnes. Domestic shipments generated more than $7.9 billion in revenues.

Transborder movements accounted for 21% of total shipments and 46% of revenues. Carriers hauled 7.7 million shipments across the Canada-US border in 2001, with freight totalling more than 75 million tonnes. These transborder shipments generated $6.8 billion in revenues.

The most frequent single commodity moved to or from the United States, other than miscellaneous transported products, was motor vehicles, parts and accessories.
In total, the transportation sector employed 475,500 people in 2001. A total of 161,600 people were working in trucking, up 2.7% from 2000. They accounted for 34% of all workers in transportation.

Data showed that carriers were generally profitable in 2001. For-hire trucking companies generated $19.5 billion in total revenues and had $18.4 billion in total expenses. The overall operating profit margin in 2001 was 5.7%, compared with 5.3% the year before.

However, operating profit margins for large carriers – those with annual revenues of between $12 million and $25 million – fell from 4.1% in 2000 to 3.9% in 2001.

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